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Another world is not just possible, but necessary

Opinion Piece

THE 21st meeting of the Conference of Participants (COP21) will take place at the end of this month in Paris. The purpose of the COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Prior to this, on November 28 and 29, a series of Climate Justice marches will be held across the world to demonstrate the public’s concern about the imminence of climate collapse.

If the science is correct, very substantial reductions in carbon emissions worldwide must be achieved quickly, with the ultimate goal of the near total elimination of fossil fuels, if the earth is not to become unrecognisable, and all life on it threatened.

However, the fact that some of the major sponsors of the conference are companies that are big emitters of the very greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, demonstrates that the conference is unlikely to reach effective solutions to the climate crisis. They themselves are part of the problem.

Pollution and environmental degradation are the result of the capitalist system that is run for profit not need, and has its roots in the “grow-or-die” nature of capitalism that dictates unless a firm expands, it will be driven out of business or taken over by a competitor.

An ever-expanding capitalism must inevitably come into collision with a finite planet and its fragile ecology. Firms whose aim is to maximise their profits in order to grow will continue to happily exploit whoever and whatever they can to do so. To quote social-ecologist Murray Bookchin: “Capitalism is inherently anti-ecological. Competition and accumulation constitute its very law of life, a law . . . summarised in the phrase, ‘production for the sake of production’. Anything, however hallowed or rare, ‘has its price’ and is fair game for the marketplace. In a society of this kind, nature is necessarily treated as a mere resource to be plundered and exploited. The destruction of the natural world . . . follows inexorably from the very logic of capitalist production.” (Post-Scarcity Anarchism, pp. viii-ix).

Our own personal actions, or reforms implemented by nation states, can have little effect on this unrelenting process of growth for growth’s sake, merely delaying the inevitability of climate collapse. Of course, that’s not to say we shouldn’t address our lifestyles and consumption habits, but the only real solution to halting the onset of climate collapse is to bring an end to capitalism itself — an objective which sadly seems to be on the agenda of hardly any of the largest groups of climate activists.

An entirely new way of organising civilisation must be built. This will be a decentralised world without borders, without states, with production for use not profit. A world based on co-operation and mutual aid, without wage-labour, money, markets or hierarchy, a self-governing global social order based on direct democracy.

There is a very rich tradition of social philosophy which for the past 200 years or so has been making demands for such a world. That philosophy is anarchism, and it’s now more urgent than ever that we look to it and learn from it.

Stuart Moriarty-Patten